Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) have dominated the school choice policy conversations as of late. However, many people are still unsure what ESAs truly offer, and some of the terminology can be confusing.

ESAs are similar to an Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) or a Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) in terms of the flexibility they provide but are used to pay for education expenses. A portion of the state’s allocated dollars that are already designated for each child’s public education are instead loaded onto a debit card that parents use to customize their child’s education. This money can be used for any educational resources including tutors, textbooks, private-school, homeschooling curriculum, and virtual learning.

Often these programs are confused with Coverdell Education Savings Accounts which are instead set up with personal money invested into tax-free accounts. These Funds can be used at any eligible educational institution whether that be elementary, secondary, or postsecondary. With a regular ESA, funds are coming from “legislative appropriations, local districts, and the federal government.

Several states have already implemented ESA programs. For example, Arizona offers ESAs to children with special needs, attending failing public schools, in the foster care system, or children of active-duty military. Nevada offers a universal ESA program, allowing all public school students the opportunity to obtain quality education in the environment that best fits his or her learning needs.

Parents know their child’s learning needs best, so they are best equipped to decide how these resources should be spent to ensure their child obtains a quality education. By having control over the money the state is already spending on their child, parents who were previously limited by income or geography, now have access to more educational options for their children. Parents can keep their child in their school if they’re happy with it, but ESAs give more options to parents who feel that their child’s current school environment isn’t meeting their needs.

You can learn even more about ESAs at esaga.org.